Henry F. W. Little.

The Seventh Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers in the War of the Rebellion online

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Century War Book :

"To-morrow the whole Union army is to be set in
motion, and leaving only a small garrison along its thirty
miles of fortifications, is to make the most powerful dem-
onstration yet attempted on the enemy's present lines ; if
possible, to turn his right flank south of Petersburg, and
gain possession of the southern railroads. The purpose
of this demonstration is to gain the nearest possible point
to Richmond, and to prevent the transfer of Lee's troops
from there toward his Petersburg lines ; and if his left
wing can be turned, to march into Richmond. The
Tenth Corps, General Terry, is to make a demonstration
on the Charles City and Darbytown roads, while General
Weitzel's force of the Eighteenth Corps is to push through
the White Oak Swamp at Hobson's Crossing, move up
to the Williamsburg turnpike, and then attack ; conse-
quently the Eighteenth Corps will post to the rear of the
Tenth Corps, and along to the right of it, then face to the
left and advance.""

In compliance with orders we were promptly in line,
with our rations in our haversacks, and at once marched

328 History of the Seventh Regiment

with the Second Brigade out through the sally-port to the
northward, proceeding over about the same course as had
been taken on the 13th, out towards the Darbytown road.
We followed up this road until w^e came to the earthworks
of the enemy, when a line of skirmishers was sent forward
from our brigade, all the rest of the troops in our division
forming in two lines of battle just in the edge of a piece
of woods, only a few hundred yards from the rebel works,
which were tbund to be almost impregnable, with a heavy
force of Confederates near and behind them : consequently
it w^as decided by the commander of our expedition to
hold our ground until morning, and then see what the
chances might be. At dark it commenced raining, and
continued to rain heavil}^ all night. The men who were
in the line on that memorable night of October 28, 1864,
will never forget how cold and wet they got, with no
chance for any fire. The orders were that no man should
leave the line, and there they stood or sat upon the ground
during the seemingly long hours of that night. The
morning was so long in putting in its appearance that we
thought we should never have a chance to dry our clothes,
for they were wet completely through ; but towards morn-
ing it cleared up cold, and made us very uncomfortable.
As soon as it was light enough for us to see the rebel
earthworks, we found they had been hurrying up rein-
forcements during the night, for large bodies of troops
were now visible who were not in sight the night before.
We lost a few men from the fire of the rebel sharp-
shooters, among whom we noticed in particular Corp.
Wilmot J. Upham, of Compan}- F, w'ho was shot through
both hips and died soon after. The loss on our brigade
skirmish line was also considerable.

The writer of this remembers distinctly how suddenly he
was awakened once during that night. He was in a sitting
posture, with the breech of a Spencer carbine resting

New Hampshire Volunteers. 329

between his legs, with the muzzle pointing upward over his
shoulder, on the right of the regiment ; and being hungry
and very tired, and so cold that he was almost completely
chilled through, he had quietly gone to the " Land of
Nod," perfectly unmindful of the noise and tumult around
him, caused by the shrieking of shells overhead every few
moments and the continual popping of musketry on the
skirmish line in our immediate front. All at once a Minie
ball struck the breech of his carbine, and buried itself in
the ground beneath him, just grazing his thigh in its
course. Lieut. George F. Robie, at that time in com-
mand of Company D, also had a narrow escape from a
sharpshooter's bullet. It seemed the rebel sharpshooters
got their range before dark, and kept up a desultory fire
durinc; the night.

During the early morning hours, and while we were
patiently waiting for the sun to warm up the atmosphere,
that we might get a little benefit from it in drying our wet
clothing, a captain of our line came along and persuaded
the writer of this to take four canteens, the requisite
amount of money, and the captain's order for a gallon of
" government commissary" — which always, in army par-
lance, was known as whiskey — go back until he found
the commissary wagon, and have the canteens filled.
Thinking the journey might tend to warm him up, the
writer consented to go. After tramping about a mile, we
found the wagon, which was in charge of the brigade
commissary, to whom we presented the order and money,
got the whiskey, and started back immediately for the
line. After proceeding a short distance, we fell in with
some men of the Fourth Mass. Cavalry whom we knew,
and after the greetings were over, it was quite natural that
they should wish to know what we could possibl}^ be
doing with so many canteens. The consequence was
that, as a matter of military courtesy, we had to stand

330 History of the Seventh Regiment

treat. After a few moments of friendly chat, we again
bade each other adieu, the cavahymen going in the direc-
tion of our right flank, while we steadily began our
journey once more to the front, busily studying how it
would be possible to make four half-filled canteens take
the place of four full ones when presented to the captain.
As we came to a piece of woods, we noticed a small brook
wending its way seaward, and we instinctively stopped,
ducked each and every canteen till they bubbled full, and
then went on our way rejoicing. Arriving at the line, we
found the captain patiently awaiting our arrival, and we
at once turned over the full canteens to his possession,
which he immediately sampled, pronouncing it excellent,
and requested us to keep one canteen for our trouble.
We had the satisfaction of knowing, however, that the
mixture must have been a pretty fair temperance drink.

While back near the wagons we learned that the whole
of the Eighteenth Corps had been operating in the vicinity
of White Oak Swamp, but had not met with the success
expected ; therefore, a short time before noon, we had
orders to retire behind our works, which we accomplished
during the afternoon.

During the 27th, Lieut. Heber J. Davis, of Company
A, who was an aide on the staff of General Hawley, was
severely wounded while carrying orders from one part of
the field to another.

Under date of October 28, commissions were issued,
upon the recommendation of Colonel Abbott, to the fol-
lowing sergeants : First Sergt. Paul Whipple, of Com-
pany K, to be first lieutenant of Company A ; First Sergt.
George F. Robie, of Company D, to be first lieutenant of
Company G; Sergt. H. F. W. Little, of Company D, to
be second lieutenant of Company E ; First Sergt. Calvin
Brown, of Company I, to be second lieutenant of Com-
pany G ; First Sergt. Charles P. Dennison, of Company

New Hampshire Volunteers. 331

A, to be second lieutenant of Compiiny H ; First Sergt.
John A. Coburn to be tirst lieutenant of Company H.

On the 29th, the rebels drove in our pickets for a short
distance on our right, but a small cavalry charge regained
the lost ground, and our picket line was re-established;
but during the excitement all the troops fell in at the

On the 31st, Capt. Granville P. Mason was mustered
out of service, on surgeon's certificate of disability. Cap-
tain Mason had been with us from the formation of the
regiment, having been mustered into service as first lieu-
tenant of Company A. He was a zealous and faithful
officer, and was popular with the men of his company.

While at the defenses of Bermuda Hundred, a new
sutler was appointed to our regiment, the one who had
been with us preferring to remain in the Department of
the South. The newly appointed man was Daniel K.
White, of Manchester, N. H., and as he had many
acquaintances in the regiment, he soon got on friendly
terms with the men, and we found him a very accommo-
dating man. While with the Seventh he did a thriving

We now commenced a series of drills, extremely long
and hard, which were supposed to be mostly for the bene-
fit of the " subs" and recruits ; but on November 3, orders
were received to pack up and be in readiness to move at a
moment's notice.

The morning of November 4 opened rainy, but the men
were routed out early, and received their two days' rations
from the cooks, who had been up all night to prepare
them. Line was formed at 4 o'clock, and we at once
started for Jones's Landing on the James River, where we
arrived about daylight. Here we heard that, with other
regiments, the Seventh had been selected, and had been,
with others of Hawley's brigade, ordered to New York on

332 History of the Seventh Regiment

the occasion of the coming presidential election, this pre-
caution having been taken to prevent an election riot in
New York city, which seemed just upon the eve of break-
ing out, and which had been feared by the citizens at the
North ; as our brigade was armed with seven-shooters or
Spencer carbines, it had been selected as one of the most
effective for such an emergenc}'. We stopped near the
landing until dark, when we were ordered aboard the
steamer "Thomas Powell," and at once started for Ber-
muda Hundred ; from there the steamer dropped down to
Cit}- Point, where we anchored for the night. Earlv the
next morning we started down the James River, and
tound that the Third New Hampshire was on board the
same steamer with us. We arrived at Norfolk, Va., at
dark that night, the 5th, and were immediately transferred
to the steam transport " United States."

Here we lay at anchor all night, and earl}- on the morn-
ing of the 6th started for New York, passing Fortress
Monroe on our way out to sea. As soon as the men
found out that we were surely on the way north, they
began speculating as to our destination, and many were
the stories rife about our going on the frontier, along the
line between Canada and the United States.

On this steamer with the Seventh was the Third New
Hampshire, Seventh Connecticut, of the Second Brigade,
First Division, and the Thirteenth Ind. Volunteers, of the
Third Brigade, Second Division, temporarily attached to
our brigade, which was under command of Brigadier-
General Hawley. Major-General Butler, commanding
the Army of the James, was present with the expedition.

On the evening of the 7th, we arrived off Fort Rich-
mond, Staten Island, in New York Harbor, and disem-
barked about 10 o'clock p. im., the little steamer '• Houston"
taking us from the steamer " United States" to the wharf;
from there we were at once marched to some wooden bar-

New Hampshire Volunteers. 333

rack buildings, where we were quartered until the morning
of the Sth, when the Seventh Connecticut and the Seventh
New Hampshire were ordered aboard an old ferrj^-boat,
rigged up as an iron-clad and named " Augusta.*' The
old ferry-boat at once proceeded up to the city in East
River, near the foot of 14th street, where we lay at anchor
between New York and Brooklyn from the morning of
November 8 until the evening of the nth, prepared for
any emergency which might require our services. Other
regiments who had come north were placed on other
boats, and were anchored at intervals along the water
front of the city, ready to etfect a landing at any moment.
We had extra ammunition issued, and were w^ell prepared
for any emergency that might arise. On the evening of
the nth, w'e were ordered back to Fort Richmond, and
were marched into the fort and given quarters in some of
the casemates.

The first three da3^s on the old " double-ender" ferry-
boat were rainy, cold, and disagreeable ; besides, we were
so crowded for room that we had hardly room to sit down.
The way they crowded our soldiers into such a small
space showed conclusively that the authorities were very
short of transportation. With all this inconvenience we
were without rations, and were nearly starved before we
got an3'thing to eat ; and then not until we had gone with-
out food for a whole twenty-four hours, at the end of
which time a small ration of soft bread, a few hard-tack,
and a small ration of boiled fat pork w^ere issued us once
each day. We were required to keep under cover as
much as possible, and were in line most of the time, night
and da}'; so we shivered and starved it through. We
w'ere so uncomfortable that we really began to have a
longing to get to the front again. We have not the least
doubt but that it was necessary at that time that we should
remain cooped up in such small quarters as we were,

334 History of the Seventh Regiment

and that under such circumstances we should suffer in-
tensely with cold ; but we can never believe that there
was even the shadow of an excuse, other than sheer negli-
gence on the part of our commanding officers who were at
the head of this expedition, for half-starving the men while
on board this boat, especially with Uncle Sam to pay the
bill, and taking into consideration that a bountiful supply
of food was always obtainable in such a city as New
York. At the extreme front, amidst all the hardships and
horrors of war, we could always overlook such inattention
on the part of our commissariat, but the circumstances
attending this case rendered complaint perfectly justifiable.
We never fullv knew whether the other regiments of the
expedition fared better or not, but they could not have
fared w^orse.

On the 8th, those of the regiment w^ho desired to exer-
cise their right of franchise and cast a vote for president,
were given the privilege to do so, and the ballots were
marked, sealed, and forwarded to commissioners appointed
to receive them from the State of New Hampshire. The
ballot taken from the Seventh was quite small, however,
there being fourteen for Lincoln and two for McClellan,
many not caring to exercise the privilege.

On the " double-ender" steam was constantl}' kept up
in order that we might be taken up to a wharf at a
moment's notice, and imperative orders were given to the
file-closers to shoot every man who stepped from the
ranks without leave, an order which we always supposed
was for the benefit, more especiall}', of our " subs "' and
" bount}' jumpers," of whom each compan}- had more or

On the first day of our arrival at Staten Island, First
Lieut, and Adjt. Henry G. Webber was placed under
arrest, and Second Lieut. James A. Cobb, of Company B,
was detailed as acting adjutant.

New Hampshire Volunteers. 335

While we were quartered in the casemates at Fort
Richmond, after leaving the " Augusta," we were kept
closely in quarters, and only a tew passes were given
each day in the different companies, giving such lucky
ones a chance to visit the little village of Clifton. In all
cases a non-commissioned officer was obliged to accom-
pany the squad ; yet, with all these restrictions and pre-
cautions, we lost during the last three days of our stay,
from desertion, about one hundred and fifty, all "subs"
or " bounty jumpers."

On the afternoon of the 15th, we were again ordered
aboard the transport " United States," and with other reg-
iments of the expedition, started about 3 o'clock the next
morning for Fortress Monroe, where we arrived on the
morning of the 17th, and at once proceeded up the James
River as far as Fort Powhattan, where we anchored for
the night ; at daybreak next morning we started for
Jones's Landing, which we reached about 9 o'clock on the
morning of the i8th, disembarked in the afternoon, and
immediately proceeded to our old camp-ground at Laurel
Hill, reaching there at 4 o'clock, having been absent two

On the 19th, Horace P. Buel was appointed principal

We now commenced anew to erect log huts for winter
quarters, for every log and, in fact, ever3-thing large
enough for a club or splinter for kindling, which we had
left at our camp when we started for New York, had been
carried away and utilized by troops who camped in the
vicinity ; in other words, our old camp had been " gutted,"
and we were obliged to rebuild our camp for winter
quarters, and had to commence, as the men used to say,
" barefooted"; that is, every log or stick of wood which
we might want was yet growing, and must be cut and
brought to our camp, which was by no means a soft job,

336 History of the Seventh Regiment

for the wood and timber had been cut for a long distance
outside our earthworks, and had been used by the troops
who camped along the line. By Christmas, although the
weather had been much of the time unfavorable, we had
about completed substantial winter quarters, consisting, as
before, of square log huts provided wath a canvas roof
made from our shelter tents, each hut having a chimney,
built in southern style, outside, plastered inside and out
with clay, and built of sticks, "cob-house" style. These
chimneys w^ere all built for fireplaces, and when com-
pleted and provided with a t^re, made the inside of these
huts look cheerful indeed. Clay was also used to plaster
the chink-holes between the logs. We were all, from the
rank of colonel down, very proud of our new habitations,
and only wondered how many days would elapse before
we might be obliged, under circumstances over which we
had no control, to build another camp for winter quarters.
The writer will never forget his first attempt, after hav-
ing completed the chimney to the hut in which he was
quartered, at cooking in the new fireplace. We had
hunted around and found money enough with which to
purchase a few Irish potatoes, some onions, and a little
butter at the sutler's, and at once became oblivious of
everything except the preparation of a good square meal.
We had the potatoes and the onions nicely done, using a tin
plate with a split stick for a handle, which made a good
frying-pan ; had just finished seasoning with salt and
pepper, and had also added a small bit of the butter, and
was about to take the dish away preparatory to making an
attack upon it with knife and fork, when there was an ex-
plosion as of a two-thousand-pound shell, the atmosphere
seemed suddenly to change, daylight turned to darkness,
and we could hardly breathe or see for ashes. Our first
impression was that we had inadvertently built our chimney
directly over a volcano ; but somehow it didn't seem exactly

New Hampshire Volunteers. 337

like an earthquake, but it came so suddenly that we were
conscious of being the least bit bewildered. As the smoke
cleared away and the ashes settled enoucrh to allow us to
see clearly, we found the plate in one corner, the handle
in another, and fried potatoes and onions, our salt, pepper,
and butter, together with halt-burned fire brands, about as
evenly scattered over our eight-by-ten floor as could well
be imagined. Our uniform was on fire in half a dozen
places, and a look into the fireplace revealed about a
peck of metallic cartridge shells. Then we at once
divined the cause of the trouble. Some person outside,
just for pure " cussedness," had deftly tossed a bag of
those cartridges down our chimney from the top. Of
course the circumstances attending the case did not allow
of our getting out quite quick enough to detect the culprit,
but if we never got square with him, it was because he
left the service before we did, for we had our suspicions
down pretty fine. Anyhow, we dined on hard-tack and
cold water that day, and we have been shy of fireplaces
ever since.

November 24 was the day appointed up in New Hamp-
shire as Thanksgiving by the governor, and well we
remembered the meaning of the word, according to usage
among the people away in the old Granite State. But
with us in the field there was little significance attached to
that particular day. We fondly remembered the Thanks-
giving fare with which we had been familiar before the
war, and it is barel}^ possible that the comparison with
our present "grub" influenced the writer to enter in his
diary that we had for our supper on that day what the
" colored troops charged on," which, according to the
interpretation of the men, was " nothing."

The Sanitary and Christian commissions we always
got confounded, one with the other, but we gave the most
credit to the Sanitary Commission, for the reason, prob-

338 History of the Seventh Regiment

ably, that we oftener came in contact with that body. We
shall never forget their style of giving out tobacco, pin-
cushions, needles, thread, and other small articles, and
which would often cause much sport among the men along
the line. An agent or employe of the commission would

sometimes 20 alongr the line of our works with a haver-
ed o

sack full of nav}' tobacco, little circular pin-cushions, and
writing paper and envelopes, carrying a knife in one
hand and a large plug of navy tobacco in the other.
When he found a man who used the weed, he would cut
him otf' a very small " chew," while to everyone who did not
use it he generally presented a pin-cushion about as large
as an old "bung-town" cent, or, if they preferred, a few
sheets of writing paper and as man}- envelopes, all of
which were necessaries, and were gladly received by the
men. At tirst some of the men would ask the privilege
of cutting otf' their own "chews" of tobacco, and would
then cut ofT a " chew" and tender it to the agent, quietly
marching away with the remainder of the plug. But after
this trick was played a few times, the agents did their
own cutting and delivering, and would often appear along
the line with the tobacco already cut into nice little
" chews," ready to be given away. But we well remem-
ber that it always came most opportunel}', as we often
received it from the commission when the sutlers were
away at the rear and had not got up with us, or when
sutlers and soldiers were completely out of the article.
Again, one of these agents would visit the commander of
each company, and leave a small order for beef tea, con-
densed milk, or corn-starch, old newspapers and other
reading matter. The writer of this remembers being
detailed to go to the tent of the Sanitary Commission with
one of these orders, for the purpose of having it filled.
We got our cans of beef tea and corn-starch, but the only
reading matter they had on hand at that time was a small

New Hampshire Volunteers. 339

lot of old back numbers of Parson Brownlow's " Knox-
ville Whig." However, we gladly took them, for the
men were always thankful for anything that constituted a
change. We will never forget the great benefit, also, of
the Christian Commission, whose stamp was always ready
for use upon the letters of comrades ; for there were many
men who never had postage stamps with them, and, in
fact, never seemed to have money to buy them with.

About this time the War Department issued an order
permitting officers in the field to dispense with shoulder
straps, the designation of rank, however, such as stars,
eagles, leaves, and bars, to be worn ; and they were also
permitted to wear overcoats like enlisted men. We now
began to have some cool weather, with an occasional
snow squall or a storm of sleet, and water froze a half-
inch in thickness.

On the 25th, a man from the Ninth Maine was shot,
having been sentenced by a court martial. On this day
we received some Thankstrivincr •' (roodies " that had been
sent out to us from the good people at home. It was
mostly turkey and chicken meat and fruit, and it is need-
less to state that the men appreciated the donation, and
did it ample justice.

In one of the diaries kept by someone in the Third New
Hampshire, this entry was made :

"Sunday (27th), rain; in the woods getting out logs
for our house.'"

They were in the same brigade, and this was a sample
of the way we were obliged to put in our time, for the
weather was beginning to be severely cold.

The monthly return for November of this year shows a
little less than three hundred men present fit for duty,
though the effective strength of the regiment had been
considerably increased by recruits the previous month.
First Lieut, and Adjt. Henry G. Webber was dismissed

340 History of the Seventh Regiment

the service by sentence of court martial, to date from
November 12, 1S64.

December i, John Greene, of Company H, was pro-
moted to hrst Heutenant and adjutant. The regiment
began to have dress parades, and the men were obHged to
brush up and brighten up in order to make a good appear-
ance ; therefore there was plenty of work for each man,
and our time was well employed in our various duties